1632ea3d1e4046658f88db8dd2163643If you’re in the middle of wedding planning, you’re probably looking for a way to save on costs. And who can blame you? The average wedding in the United States, according to CNN Money, has climbed up to $29,858. That’s an exorbitant number — and for many couples, impossible to manage.

To stay under budget, many couples try to negotiate with their wedding vendors. But if you want to haggle, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. In three years working as a wedding professional, I saw some ugly, insulting negotiating tactics — but that meant that when it was my time to be a bride, I knew exactly what strategies to use to get the results I hoped for.

Don’t try to negotiate with the most popular vendors

If you want to negotiate with your wedding vendors, don’t pick the ones that everyone raves about on Wedding Wire and The Knot. These vendors book out months to years in advance and often have a waiting list. They have no incentive to offer discounted services — if you can’t afford their prices, someone else will.

Instead, approach vendors who are less well-known or newer in the market. They have more openings in their schedule and will be more willing to work with you to find a price that fits your budget. My husband and I used this trick to get a discount from our DJ — because he had just started his business, he was willing to give us nearly 20% off his services in order to have another client he could turn to for testimonials or referrals.

Ask for add-ons, not lower prices

Vendors are often hesitant to lower their prices because they’re afraid word will get out and new clients will attempt to lowball them. To prevent that from happening, many wedding professionals will politely refuse to negotiate on price.

However, they may be willing to throw in something a little “extra” if you ask for it. You may be able to convince your photographer to add in a free photo album, or your florist might be willing to provide free flower arrangements for the church once he knows you’re ordering eight bouquets.

At my own wedding, we were able to persuade our caterer to add two extra hors d’oeuvres to our cocktail hours — at no extra charge — in addition to the selections we were going to pay for. They didn’t have to worry about us telling other clients that their prices were flexible. But they did get a stellar online review for being so pleasant (and delicious) to work with.

Offer something in exchange

Do you work in graphic design? Create custom letterpress stationery? Know a thing or two about social media marketing? If you have talents that can be of use to your wedding vendors, see if they’re interested in a little bartering. Most wedding vendors are small business owners who need things like website logos, business cards, and social media management. They may be happy to trade your skills for theirs.

If you do attempt to exchange services, be sure that what you’re offering is comparable in value. If you would charge a client $100 for a logo design, don’t try to trade it for $6000 of catering. Be honest about the worth of what you’re offering.

Respect the value of the service

When attempting to negotiate, don’t be condescending or insulting. Don’t tell the vendor they’re not worth a certain price or lie about what other vendors charge.

Having worked in the wedding industry, I can say with certainty that most professionals know exactly what the going rate is in their market and what their competition charges. They also talk to each other, and if one vendor declines to work with you because of a nasty attitude, there’s a good chance he or she will warn other vendors about your interaction.

Wedding vendors are professionals who are offering a service that you need — otherwise, you wouldn’t be considering hiring them, right? Show respect for what they’re offering when you negotiate. Otherwise, you may find yourself with no vendor at all.

Have you ever attempted to negotiate with wedding vendors? What did you find did — and did not — work?